A Family Night Out for the Holidays at Sparkman Wharf

Here at the Alden, we’re always looking for new fun experiences for our guests, and we have a new one for you that’s perfect for the 2020 holiday season! Just a 30-minute drive from the Alden is Tampa’s new waterfront entertainment district, Sparkman Wharf. Built on the Tampa Bay right next to the Florida Aquarium, this open-air center is built for families to have fun together, and they’ve added some special features to make it an awesome holiday destination.

You’ll want to spend more than an hour or two at Sparkman Wharf because there’s just so much to do. On your next visit to the Alden, why not drive over at lunchtime and sample some of the amazing food that our local restaurants are offering at the food trucks? The Naked Farmer serves chef-prepared seasonal American food from farms close to home. You can expect fine-dining quality and cooking techniques, served in a fast, convenient manner. Then stop by Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams for a cone of their locally made ice cream with a uniquely smooth texture and buttercream body that makes you come back for more!

If you haven’t experienced the Florida Aquarium yet, you won’t want to miss it. With a 4-D Theater, 100,000 gallon Heart of the Sea exhibit, and an opportunity to interact with real-life penguins, your whole family is sure to be entertained and inspired. The Florida Aquarium is currently requiring reservations to limit capacity, so make sure to book your trip in advance.

Sparkman Wharf has plenty of other ways for families to enjoy time together, including Splitsville, a retro-cool bowling alley that goes WAY beyond the traditional ten-pin bowling. They have lawn and feather bowling, billiards, foosball, darts, and shuffleboard! You can even pick up a classic Southern snack from their menu inspired by two-time James Beard Award winner Chef Art Smith.

If you have little ones, they won’t be able to resist the lure of Tampa’s Pirate Ship, the Lost Pearl. Right off the dock at Sparkman Wharf, you can set sail for a Pirate’s Christmas!  The festive cruise will take your family to Holiday Island where you will get an up-close look at Tampa’s largest floating Christmas tree. Children will also write and mail a letter to Santa to drop into Tampa’s only floating mailbox. Pirate singalongs featuring Christmas carols, swashbuckling games, round out the magical Christmas event!

While you’re out and about with the family, you can even get some Christmas shopping done. Shop local and support Tampa’s small businesses, finding unique gifts for everyone on your list. Fido will be in dog heaven when you bring home a present from The Modern Paws. You can find local food products like teas, honey and jellies, plus gifts for your favorite home chef at the Main Ingredient.

And Joyful Notion offers fresh Florida fashion and The Flower Bar, where you can create your very own floral masterpiece from their abundant assortment of fresh blooms.

Hang out and watch the boats go by on Sparkman Wharf’s recreational lawn, with cornhole games, porch swings and live music. Sip on local brews under sparkling lights at the Biergarten. Take a picture with the iconic TAMPA sign and enjoy the gorgeous views of the Tampa skyline as the sun goes down.

We recommend a grand finale for your festive family day out: dinner on the patio at JOTORO. Fine Mexican provisions prepared by a Michelin-starred chef elevate your dining experience. Start with a few of their margarita flights- we did and we’re now obsessed with the Izzy Colada and the Prickly Pear Margarita. It’s a good idea to bring plenty of family members so you can share bites and try it all.

We munched through the whole menu and could not stop talking about their Mexico City Grilled Street Corn, Crispy Tempura Fish Tacos, Crispy Brussels Sprouts, and Spinach and Mushroom Enchiladas. They have vegetarian and keto options so the whole family can find something to enjoy.

We know you’ll be full after all that yumminess, but make sure to order JOTORO’s house-made key lime pie. Chef Joe Isidori elevates this classic Florida dessert with a crunchy crust and cinnamon horchata sauce. It’s truly the best key lime pie we’ve ever experienced and trust us, we’ve had more than our share! And before you go, don’t forget to take a photo with their life-sized llama piñata!

2020 has been a tough year for all of us, but there’s no reason not to enjoy the holidays with your family. Here in Florida, we have plenty of ways to celebrate safely outdoors, whether you’re on the balcony of your suite at the Alden, spaced out in our cabanas at the beach, or having a grand adventure at Sparkman Wharf. We hope to see you here for the holiday season in St. Pete Beach!

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